Finance minister speaks out against army ‘incitement’
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Finance minister speaks out against army ‘incitement’

Yuval Steinitz accuses the IDF of attempted extortion in its effort to prevent budget cuts

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

The army is acting illegitimately in its quest to secure greater funding from the government, the finance minister said Sunday, amplifying what is already a vocal and vociferous feud between the government’s two strongest ministries, Defense and Finance.

“In a democratic country the government decides and the army salutes; it does not incite against the government,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said before Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

The Trajtenberg Report, commissioned in the wake of last summer’s social protests, recommended cutting three billion shekels from the defense budget in order to fund socioeconomic reforms. The government has refused to implement that element of the report, but has, however, also refused to authorize the IDF’s  multi-year plan, leaving the Defense Ministry’s 2012 budget in a state of uncertainty.

Deputy IDF Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that the military is NIS 3.3 billion short of what it requires for 2012 and that if the gap is not filled by April, “all training exercises will be canceled and all planes will be grounded.”

The IDF reportedly plans to cancel the ongoing construction of the Merkava IV tank, the acquisition of several more Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries, and the development of the Arrow 3, which is effective against longer-range ballistic threats.

Finance Minister Steinitz called these reports “an attempt at extortion” on Sunday.

The cancellation of the Arrow 3 and Iron Dome acquisitions is further complicated by the fact that they have both been either jointly developed or co-financed by the United States.

Last year the Obama Administration authorized an additional $200 million toward the financing of several more Iron Dome batteries to protect the Negev. The Arrow 3 received an additional $100 million dollars in 2010. Accepting those funds without continuing to develop and acquire the systems for which they were earmarked would put significant strain on the ties between the US Congress and the government of Israel.

 

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